December 31, 2007

Another year over, a new one just begun

Resolutions never work for me. I begin in a flurry of activity, doing all the things on my list, but soon, within a few days or weeks, real life takes over. The resolutions disappear leaving faint traces of failure and disappointment in my own abilities.

This year, I'm taking an idea from someone else. Instead of resolutions, she establishes a theme for the year. And so, I've been thinking about a theme for several weeks, searching and praying for what the Lord might suggest to me. Two verses have been impressed upon my heart.

First came a group of verses from Deuteronomy 30:11-14 "Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it."

I realize that I keep waiting and waiting for signs from God to show me what to do - with my writing, with my love of art and craft, with my longing to create in various forms. It was as if a rock had landed in my front yard, engraved with these words. Do what is in your heart, for I, your God, have put it there.

Then, on the Sunday before Christmas, the sermon included this verse, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." (Luke 1:45)

I especially like this because it was written for a woman. When I believe, I can leave results in God's hands, not my own. That frees me to create with abandon.

And so, my theme for 2008 - In Belief...Create.

December 28, 2007

Treasuring and Pondering -- Janet Sketchley

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” [Luke 2:19 New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.]

My firstborn arrived surrounded by trained professionals, including a doctor whose compassionate determination brought the baby to delivery when I was ready to give up. I’d had prenatal classes, but the experience overwhelmed me.

Mary, after enduring the community gossip about her condition, was uprooted from her home to travel to Bethlehem at nine months pregnant (can you imagine the donkey ride?). Full inns meant not even a soft bed or bowl of warm water to wash away the road dust from her face. Labour hit, and who did she have to deliver her baby? Not a midwife, but an equally tired and dirty husband who had no previous delivery experience that we know of.

The miracle baby wrapped in cloths, she might have been starting to regroup when this chattering horde of shepherds burst in babbling about an army of angels and a message. Seeing the Christ Child would confirmed their excitement, and they left to spread the news. Would this mean more visitors?

And then Luke tells us, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

She can’t have understood what was going on, nor even had time to catch up with all that had happened. With too much to comprehend, she treasured each thing and pondered about it. Instead of a passive helplessness, she trusted God and looked to see what He was doing.

May God help us learn to do this too. Even when we don’t understand what’s happening, we can trust that He has it all in His hand, and we can ask Him to increase our understanding.

© Janet Sketchley, 2007
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

December 27, 2007

Our Christmas Tree

A week ago, my husband, grandson and I drove to our river quarter to cut down a Christmas tree. My husband thought we should use my mother’s old artificial tree but I love the smell of the freshly cut pine. Our daughter, although still in Australia, confirmed the decision earlier, stating, “A Charlie Brown tree is better than artificial.” It took less than an hour to drive there, cut and load the tree and return home.
I chuckle when I recall the time our second oldest daughter helped me cut a tree. As I drove down a hill, I spotted the perfect one sprouting out from an embankment. We parked the truck and walked across the narrow river, dragging two saws.
To cut the tree, we had to stand on a limb and stretch. Eventually, the saw made its way through but to our dismay the tree toppled over and fell about ten feet onto the frozen ice, top first, and broke.
“Should we cut a different one,” my daughter asked.
“No, I can fix it up.”
We dragged the pieces back to the truck and threw them in. On the way, my daughter looked back at the tree. “The tree is gone!”
“Oh, no! I hope no one has picked it up.” It never occurred to me, no one would want it.
We drove back, found the bruised tree lying on the gravel road, loaded it up and drove away. We had to retrieve it one more time before making it home.
After setting the tree in its stand, duct taping the top on, pruning and decorating with lights, garland, ornaments and icicles, no one was the wiser. It was a beautiful Christmas tree. And every year, I can hardly retell the event from laughing too hard.
That tree is a lot like some of us. We come broken, bruised and damaged, out of shape and ugly; but, God takes us in His loving hands, prunes and tapes our wounds and changes us into something beautiful, fit for His kingdom. GM

December 19, 2007

Workout With God

"… train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." I Timothy 4:7b, 8

I just came in from a four kilometer walk. I burned close to six hundred calories and took over ten thousand steps. My blood pressure dropped ten points. Besides all those healthy physical benefits, I got out into the fresh air, enjoyed a stroll through the bush with no one for company except squirrels, birds, and God.

Paul's right—physical exercise is a good thing. He says that it holds "promise for … the present life." Amazingly, he knew all this before diet books, aerobic tapes, and personal trainers. My morning walk is good—I might even live a few minutes longer because of it.

However, Paul's primary concern is the relationship that the "here-and-now" has to the hereafter. The important question in his mind, as it should be in ours, is how many "kilometers" we have walked each day with God. My spiritual workout in pursuing God and being godly, not only benefits me here, but it also has implications in the life to come. Because it has a wider application, that spiritual exercise ends up being more valuable than its physical cousin.

The time I spend exercising with God doesn't prolong the eternity that I will spend with Him. After all, eternity is, well, eternity. I think Paul is referring more to quality than he is to quantity. Just as physical exercise improves quality of life, so spiritual exercise—the pursuit of God and godliness—improves the quality of life here, and multiplies the joys which await me in the hereafter.

 When I seek God and His righteousness, the calories of the world are gradually burned off. As I move closer to Him, the weight of stress which often characterizes life in this present world, melts away. The uphill battles are easier as I become more conscious of the invigorating breath of His presence filling my spiritual lungs.

From spiritual exercise I gain temporal and eternal benefits which only cost me a little bit of discipline.

I am not normally given to making resolutions when a new year dawns on the horizon. However, I will make an exception when it comes to committing myself to more spiritual exercise—after all, next year I'll be that much closer to eternity.  

© Lynda Schultz 2007

December 18, 2007

God is Really With Those Who Are With Him

After Jesus had chosen His 12 disciples, they, along with many followers, traveled to various towns and villages sharing the good news of eternal life. Jesus spent most of His time with them in training and preparing them of what was soon going to take place. After awhile something peculiar began to happen. Many of Jesus followers began to doubt and question who Jesus really was, and many of them deserted the crowd and Jesus teachings. Even His disciples became despondent.

John 6:60 says: “On hearing it, many of His disciples said, “This is hard teaching. Who can accept it?” They could only understand Jesus speaking in human capacity. Jesus explained by asking, “Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see me, the Son of man, return to heaven again? It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But some of you don’t believe me.” (John 6:62-64)

They were challenged! I wonder what their thoughts were when they did see Jesus ascend into heaven? Were they thinking in human terms then?
Imagine that moment in time when all travel plans stood at a standstill. Can you just hear Jesus saying: “Friends, are you with me or not? Do you believe in the Gospel message or not? At one point Jesus did question the disciples saying, “Are you going to leave, too?”

The promises of God are very sure you know. Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit in His absence when the time came to enter back into heaven. God knows those who are His. There are those who hang on in the times of doubt, there are those who remain in the truth despite those who may ridicule, there are those who are willing to follow whatever the cost, and there are those who truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to offer eternal life.

Sad to say though, that some folks did turn away and discontinue the journey. That still happens today doesn’t it? And it is still sad to hear. The disciples and the rest of the followers continued on. That good news still brings joy. There’s a song that says: I’m going on, I’m going on, I’m going on toward the mark toward my goal, so many things depend on what I do, give me the strength dear Lord, I’m going on for you.

That sounds like determination. When you live for God and decide to follow, He will provide strength and endurance for the journey. God is really with those who are with Him! As we all travel toward our goal, Jesus will never turn back and leave us there in the middle of the road with no direction. Neither would he have bypassed the cross where He suffered and died along the way. He detoured up the hill and lay His life down for His followers and all who would follow after. You and I are included in that provision.

So when the journey gets tough, and you feel that the Christian life is too hard, and you too ask the question, how can anyone accept it? as the disciples asked, then I say to you, focus your thoughts toward faith in the true God who provides strength by His promised Holy Spirit. If we try to comprehend the Gospel message by our own human efforts, then we may not accomplish the Gospel mission that leans toward eternal life. Instead lean on the Holy Spirit who will take you through to the end.

Copyright 2007 Janice Keats

December 17, 2007

Willy and the Look

I bought a red convertible that year, to impress women. It worked, for a while. They liked my car but they didn’t like me much. At least, they didn’t hang around long, after a date or two. At first, having a different date every weekend seemed blue ribbon but after a couple months, it seemed more like the booby prize. In August, my mind whirled around life and what I should do with mine. Washed up? At twenty-two? Am I really a loser?

My old man used to say, “Sit and sulk or git up and do sumpin’ about it — that’s yur choice, kid.”

Do something? Like what? That fall was a wipe out too. The more sumpin’ I tried to do, the less the women were impressed, at least until I met Willy.

Willy was three years younger than me, black, and smooth with women. Not smooth like a slick salesman or a TV evangelist. He was smooth like the medicine Mom used to give me mixed in white corn syrup. It was delicious and went down without a fight. That just about describes Willy and women. Only he couldn’t get rid of them if he tried. The more he took, the more they gave. And I say they, meaning six of them, at the same time, and they knew each other, and they knew he was dating all the others, but they didn’t walk away mad. Heck no. They kept coming back for more of Willy. So I asked him to teach me what he had. He agreed.

He started slow, then talked for hours about the look. It wasn’t the look your folks give you when you are in trouble. It wasn’t the look like “Honey, I want to eat you up.” It was a look that said something like, “I have life by the tail and I know you are itching to come along for the ride.” It was a look of delight, like Willy had a secret with you. He said the women loved it. They loved thinking that they had an ‘in’ with him, a shared delight that wasn’t defined, but that made it mysterious and precious, and they were going to hang with him until they found out what it was. Other women might have his body for a time, but with that look, they had intimacy. And Willy said, “Boy, that is what women really want.”

I couldn’t do it. I tried. Jennifer thought it was a silly grin. She wasn’t impressed. Helen wondered if I had just heard a stupid joke and blew up at me because I wouldn’t share it with her. Jeannie thought I was mocking her. She slammed a door in my face and left.

I went crying back to Willy. Well, I didn’t cry on the outside, but he seemed to know that I was just about that desperate.

“Boy, you just haven’t got it yet. And you know why? It is not something you fake on the outside, man. You have to have life really by the tail, not pretend you do. If women want to go along for the ride, they have to know you are genuine, man. Don’t you get it? You really can’t fake that. The look is an inner thing first, somethin’ that comes from the heart.”

“But Willy, how do I get that in my heart? I always thought that if you acted really hard that you were somebody, you would become somebody. That’s what you did, isn’t it? Don’t you have that look because you have convinced yourself about this whole thing? Nobody really has the world by the tail, at least not guys like you and me.”

“Oh, but that’s where you are wrong, boy. I’m totally sure of me, myself, and I. I know who I am, and I can look at anyone with confidence that comes from right here.” Willy pounded his chest with his fist. My chest just pounded. This was nonsense to me.

I started watching Willy, sometimes when he wasn’t noticing that I was watching. He seemed sure of himself, all the time in fact. Then August came, and Willy started coughing. He wasn’t feeling well either. He tried telling me that he was okay, but he kept coughing and losing weight so I rounded up his friends and we ganged up on him and talked him into going to a doctor. It was not good. Willy had cancer, in his lungs.

The first thing to go, besides some pounds and a lot of oxygen from his chest, was that look. He lost it. His eyes dimmed. No smiling. No jaunty glances at the pretty ones. Willy was like a balloon without air, a rose with no petals (he wouldn’t like that description very much) or a Porsche that had run out of both oil and gas (better, much better). His listlessness turned into blank and horrible staring, punctuated by coughing spasms.

I drove him to the hospital on November 1. He was in pain, his head lolling against the window and his body making little effort to keep from folding into a fetal position. After the paperwork was done, they put him into bed in a double room. The man in the next bed also had lung cancer. He smiled at us. I wondered why he had a shine on his face. Willy’s face was pasty, if a colored person can have a pasty face.

Willy didn’t notice, but I did. This roommate man had a look. It wasn’t the look, not a saucy, come-with-me-baby look that the nurses fell all over themselves for, but nonetheless, it was a look. He coughed like Willy too, but the look didn’t go away.

That first day Willy moaned and mumbled thanks, but I knew he didn’t want me or anyone he knew to watch him like this, so I said goodbye and went for a walk. The halls in a hospital are long and lonely this time of day. I passed many rooms where folks were huddled around a person in a bed, their eyes full of tears or outright sobbing aloud. I felt like blubbering myself. Poor Willy.

I didn’t pay much attention to where I was going until I passed the door of a room and heard a man praying. He prayed in a firm voice, like he knew who he was talking to. He was not praying for himself though, but someone else. He asked, “God, you know the pain and the deepest needs of this fellow’s heart. You know that whatever is going on in his body is not nearly so dangerous as the emptiness of his soul. Lord, I just ask that you have mercy on him, that you reveal to him the source of true peace and joy, that you give to him meaning and fullness of life as only you can. I pray that you will show him that having you in his heart will give him great peace and joy, a confidence and a hope that cannot be robbed, not even by lung cancer.”

My heart started skipping beats. I lifted my lowered eyes and looked in the room, but even before I did, I knew who the man was, and I knew that he was praying for Willy.

Willy died two weeks later. I didn’t go see him very much before it happened. I wanted to, but couldn’t handle the way he looked. Besides, he was drugged up and we couldn’t talk much. I feel guilty. It was pure selfish discomfort on my part.

The funeral was large for someone so young. We all cried, all of his friends, all of the girls who had known him back then. The pastor talked about the hope of eternal life. Afterwards, even though I’m not one to do such a thing, I got up and told all of them about the man in the next bed and about his prayers for Willy. I even said, “Who knows. Maybe God answered that man, and maybe Willy has that confidence and hope that he prayed for. Maybe Willy has life by the tail now, far more than he ever had it while he was alive.”

I still shake my head remembering that I said that, because I didn’t think I was a religious man. I still don’t, but I have to say that after Willy died, I decided to visit that room. Maybe it was the guilt, but I knew someone would be in it, someone who was dying just like Willy, and I felt I needed to pay my respects to someone that was alive.

I was surprised the first time I went. That praying man was still in the next bed. Not only that, he hung on for months. He coughed, and he lost weight until he looked like bones wrapped in skin. He was in pain too, but the shine on his face was like a magnet.

Eventually I told him I overheard him praying for Willy. He smiled, then he said, “Do you want me to pray for you too?”

I did. And he did. Before he went to join Willy in death, he shared with me the secret, his secret. I didn’t ask about that look that he had, nor would have, but he told me anyway.

I was surprised. I still am, because, you see, I have it now, the look. It is not to catch girls even though they find me much more interesting than I was before. Instead, I have this same look that man had, not the one that Willy lost.

My look does for others what his did for me; it makes them stop and wonder. Some even ask why I’m so darn sure of myself. I just smile and tell them, “It’s not me that I’m sure of, but if you are interested, I’d be happy to tell you how to get this look. . . .”

© Elsie Montgomery (remembering Janice W. who told me that before she believed, she knew who did because their faces shone!)

December 11, 2007

Window Shopping - Marcia Laycock

The street twinkled with Christmas lights. Our boots crunched on a skiff of snow that had fallen the night before and my daughters and I smiled and laughed as we window shopped, chatting about possible gifts for members of our family. It was fun window shopping – oohing and ahhing over the bright Christmas displays and pointing out things we liked. Now and then we’d see something we all thought was particularly ugly and we’d all groan at the same time. Now and then the display in the window was enough to draw us into the store.

Window shopping is fun, but it can’t beat being able to walk into the store and buy the perfect gift. It can’t beat taking it home and wrapping it in bright paper, knowing it will soon make your loved one’s eyes light up when they open it. It can’t beat the feeling of anticipation as you put it under the tree.

As we turn to spiritual things during the Christmas season, too often many of us just window shop. On the internet it’s called lurking. We look but don’t buy, we listen but don’t participate. Standing on the outside looking in has its advantages. We believe it’s a safe place – God can’t ask anything of us if we don’t make a commitment. We won’t have to change if we stay on the edge and stay quiet.

But window shoppers never get to feel the excitement of finding the perfect gift. Lurkers never get to express their feelings and thoughts – no relationship develops with other people of like mind. Similarly, those who do not make a commitment to Christ never know the joy of the gift of salvation. They are never able to dialogue with Jesus as a friend, a brother, a saviour. Too many are missing the perfect gift – the gift of Jesus himself.

Are you window shopping but never buying? Are you lurking but never participating?
Find the true joy of Christmas this year. Step inside where it’s warm. Find that perfect gift and take it home. The perfect gift is Jesus Christ and He’s waiting for you.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

December 07, 2007

Musings on Mary - Bonnie Way

The other night my husband and I watched The Nativity. It got me thinking again about what it must have been like for Mary to carry the Savior in her womb. Being pregnant this Christmas has made me see her story in a new light.

I wonder, when she said yes to the angel, if she knew all that it would bring. I certainly didn’t, when my husband asked me, “Do you want to have a baby?” and I said “sure!” Oh, I’d heard about pregnancy from other women, and so had Mary, probably. She was with Elizabeth for part of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and the movie shows Mary’s fear and wonder as Elizabeth gives birth to baby John. Yet that scarcely prepares you for going through it yourself or for the unique experience that every woman has in carrying a baby.

And while I carry my baby supported by family and friends, Mary had to deal with a husband who considered divorcing her for unfaithfulness and a society that thought she’d been immoral. In the movie, even her family questions her story. I wonder if Mary herself had doubts about what the angel said, in the first few weeks when there wasn’t any sign of the new life growing inside her. And yet soon enough she would know, and so would everyone else… and that could mean her death.

Part of me marvels at God’s trust in placing His only beloved Son in virgin’s womb. At times I have felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for and protecting this tiny person inside me, but I’m married and don’t live in a society that stones unwed mothers. Did Mary think of that when she said yes to the angel? Or did it occur to her later? And yet God knew that the man He had chosen for her would take care of her and her Son, would save her from the stones of her neighbors, though likely not from their gossiping.

And then, just before her baby’s birth, to have to travel a long distance because of an emperor’s decree… to leave behind all the women who could help her through her labor and go with a husband she perhaps barely knew to a city she’d never seen before… I marvel at her courage, her simple acceptance of everything thrown at her, the faith that must have carried her through those days. I have the choice of a hospital fifteen minutes away or one half an hour away; a midwife or a doctor; all that modern medical care can offer; but Mary just had herself, her husband, and a few cows in a stable. Was she scared? Was she nervous? Or did she just trust God?

So this Christmas I muse on an old, familiar story, one that I’ve heard so many times over in my growing up years… and yet one that has become new and fresh again this year and still has the power to make me ponder, as Mary did, everything that happened.

December 05, 2007

Links of history

I am the writer of our family’s annual Christmas letter. I have, in my "Christmas" file, a copy of each one I’ve written! One of these years (maybe this one) I’ll make a photocopy of each and compile scrapbooks for my now-adult kids. But before I indulge in that luxury, I’ve set myself the task of writing this year’s letter.

For me the hardest part of composing this yearly newsletter is getting started. To help me with that I usually reread past versions to see how I’ve done it before. And so on Friday, I hauled out the Christmas file and flipped through this family history-in-letters.

The first thing that hit me was how technology has changed things. The earliest letters were handwritten on lined notepaper. A couple of years after that I designed letters that folded into cards with calligraphy or pen-and-ink drawings on the front. I painstakingly printed the artwork and the letter itself on parchment paper those years to keep the ink from fuzzing, as it did if I used bond. Then I photocopied them.

In 1990 I must have hauled out my old manual Olympus to do the Christmas letter - because it definitely has the typewriter look (white-out and all). Then in 1991 I used a borrowed word processor. Finally in 1992 I got a computer which I’ve used till the present, printing the letters on a variety of Christmas stationary.

In addition to mirroring advances in technology, a bit of the history of the times comes through these letters too. For example the 1990 letter begins:
In only a few more weeks 1990 will be history. It has truly been an amazing year in our world, with the unexpected toppling of much of the Eastern Bloc, the sudden flare-up in the Middle East and looming uncertainties throughout our country as befuddled politicians tackle one brush fire after another...

(My goodness, that last bit could be a description of Canadian politics any year!)

In 1997 a mail strike was pending and that year’s letter started out:
To write or not to write that is the question,
Whether the mail will move we do not know
But when it comes to friends, e’en the suggestion
That we’d forget them’s answered with a ‘No!'

And a year later, as email became the favorite mode of communication for me, I jingled:
Email would be faster
a visit even better,
but as tradition would dictate,
from us a Christmas letter....

The most favorite part of rereading these letters, though, is reliving times with the kids. Here are a few favorite bits.

From the 1990 letter when B. had just turned five:
...This is a conversation we overheard between him and a little boy in the next seat on the ferry this summer. They were watching some object in the sky.

Little Boy: ...maybe it will go as high as Santa Claus.

B.: Santa Claus is a sham

Little Boy: (silence)

B: Do you know what a "sham" is? It’s a fake.

We nervously glanced at the little boy’s parents and were
relieved when the two boys started talking about something else.

(Though Santa was never part of our Christmas tradition, we did not coach our kids to dash other kids' illusions about Father Christmas - honestly.)

And from that same letter:
S’s comeback to B’s endless knock-knock jokes:

B.: Knock-knock

S.: This is a recording. There is nobody home.

Finally, from the 1993 letter, when S. was 10 and not the keenest pianist:
...I brought some dispute between the children re: piano practice times to Ernie, our resident mediator and after he suggested a solution to the problem, he declared, "I’m as good as Solomon," at which point I heard S. mutter, "Yeah, cut the piano in half!"

Alas, reading all these old letters brings me no closer to starting this year’s. But I’ll think of a way to begin it in due course. Because I wouldn’t want to break this letter chain– which already spans 20 years!


I first posted this on my blog in late November 2005. That year I did get around to putting together a collection of letters for the kids. I made color copies of each, slipped them into plastic protective sheets, printed a photo collage cover, put the works into D-ring binders and called the project "Our Story in Letters."

So take up that pen or head over to that keyboard to write your annual Christmas letter. After all, you're writing much more than a letter - you're writing history.

November 30, 2007

Handsome Paramedics, Painkillers, and Overall General Stupidity

“Whatever you do, don’t leave the path!” my brother warned us as we left for a day of hiking Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver.

But what do you do when you see groups of people sun tanning on the rocks, laughing, and cheering each other on as they took turns jumping off the cliffs to the pure mountain water below? Well, you just saunter off that little trail and have a little look.

What could it hurt to have a look? That led to, “What could it hurt to change into our bathing suits?” From there it was as slippery as those water-fall drenched cliffs. “What could it hurt to peer over the edge at the pool 30 feet below?”

The cool water pulled me into its shocking embrace and popped me back up again after I’d jumped the first cliff. Delicious. Let’s do it again. Well, we really didn’t have much choice. The only way out of the canyon now was to finish cliff jumping. There were two more cliffs to go and then a trail leading up and out.

The next cliff was easy. It wasn’t slippery like the first one with a waterfall running over its edge. (Never tell your mom that part.) My sister and sister-in-law took different routes down the jagged rocks. It jutted so far out that we couldn’t jump from the top. We scrambled down the outcropping of rocks until we found a safe place to dive. But I didn’t see the rocks lurking beneath the dark blue water.

That hurt, I thought, when I dove in and struck my knee on a sharp rock below the surface. But the cool mountain water numbed my knee until I swam to the shore. When I rolled over and sat up, I saw something I’d never seen before. My knee bone. I was delighted at its white shine until the blood began to pour out.

People who cliff dive are all of one category: lunatics. So when I’d hurt myself, everybody joined in for the rescue. A stranger ripped off his t-shirt in slow motion to the tune of “Just when I needed you most” and sent it down for me to wrap my knee. Blood soaked it within seconds. I fell when I stood up. So somebody called the Ambulance and reported that a fellow cliff diver broke her leg. People, looking like little dots on the suspension bridge far above, waved at us and ran to the nearest pay phone (this episode was before the Renaissance) to call the Vancouver Fire Department and said they needed Paramedics to scale the cliffs. Some other enthused cliffie called the Vancouver Police Department to block off the suspension bridge. They would need to make room for the nearly "paralyzed" victim to be transported across.

The paramedic that strapped me into a harness and guided me up the cliff had a smile as decadent and tempting as dark chocolate. The throbbing in my knee became the rhythm to “We’ve only just begun...”, especially as he carried me over the suspension bridge swinging high above the canyon. All traffic was blocked from the bridge until I was safely across. Crowds of onlookers drooled in jealousy at a fellow cliff-diver in the arms of Donny Osmond.

Several stitches later and water on the knee erased the memory of the handsome paramedic and caused me to ask for my Bible and an extra painkiller instead.

Because I was such a wise young person, I was quick to share many spiritual lessons with my parents immediately after calling them from the emergency room: First of all I shared with them, with bitter disappointment, that good-looking paramedics never stick around. And they don’t help take away pain. God does. Secondly, listen to your big brother when he tells you to stay on the path. When you leave the path for a little look, it can lead to a little mishap. Thirdly, when you do have a mishap, God is there. “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11,12).

And as the years passed and my wisdom diminished with parenthood, I learned that you never, ever tell your children about the dorky things you did as a teen, lest they follow in your stupidity. Even if there was a gorgeous paramedic!

Pam (with a mysterious scar that her children often ask about...)

November 24, 2007

Where's the Room? -- Lorrie

Her days were busy, full of activity with little time to think. It was better that way. Better to fall into bed each night ready to sink into an uneasy sleep than to stare into the grim darkness that reflected the black hole in her heart. Better to fall into oblivion than to be crowded by the empty space beside her. Her heart was shattered, broken into shards that pierced and stabbed in every waking moment.

She rose with the morning light, filled with the ache of unshed tears for the loss of her beloved husband, Jacob. She moved through the day, caring for the needs of her guests. Rooms filled at a steady pace because of the egotistical whim of far-off Caesar. It was a nuisance, this census, but it was great for business.

Morning turned to afternoon and as the sky darkened, every room was taken. A knock sounded at the door and she went to answer it, a refusal already forming on her lips. The inn was full. She’d rented out even her children’s room, placing a mattress on the floor in her bedroom for them to sleep on. These travelers would have to find somewhere else to sleep.

She opened the door and saw a young man with tired, desperate eyes.
“Please” he said, “we need a place to stay for the night.” He gestured helplessly towards his wife.

The innkeeper’s eyes fell on the young woman leaning against her husband. One hand protectively cradled her enormous belly. The innkeeper looked into the woman’s face and read weariness in the drooping mouth and eyes ringed and dark. A question formed in her mind and was answered unspoken as the woman closed her eyes and clung to her husband. When the woman opened her eyes and returned the innkeeper’s gaze a flash of womanly intuition passed between them. The innkeeper sighed.

She knew that her hotel was full to the brim – there was no room anywhere. But how could she turn away travelers with such a compelling need?

“There’s the stable – it’s dirty, but the hay is clean and the animals provide some warmth. It’s all I have,” she offered hesitantly.

Relief washed over the faces of the young couple.
“Thank you,” they said as they turned towards the small cave behind the inn. “Thank you so much.”

The innkeeper’s thoughts strayed often to the young couple throughout the evening. When the pace at the inn slowed down, her guests replete and quiet, she collected clean linens and a container of hot soup and walked out into the starry night towards the stable. With only her husband there, the young woman might want some female companionship, someone who knew a little about giving birth.

In the hours that followed, the innkeeper and the husband bathed the young woman’s face, held her hands, and encouraged her labor. Their reward came as a squalling but perfectly formed child slid into their hands. The innkeeper wrapped the baby boy tightly, then, with a smile, handed him back to his mother.

An amazed look of joy filled the parents’ faces as they gazed at their son. The sight took the innkeeper back to the memories of Jacob’s exuberance at their children’s births. But there was something different here - the innkeeper sensed that she was in the presence of someone extraordinary. She, too, admired this little child. He looked like any other tiny, wrinkled newborn, yet there was a tenderness about the scene that gently touched her raw, oozing inner scars. A single tear trickled down her face to the corner of her mouth. She bit her lip hard but was unable to stop the salty water from covering her face. Seeing her emotion the young couple told her the story of the child’s conception, and the promise that he was the hope for whom they had longed, that somehow he would be the one who could ease her pain.

“Could it be?” The aching woman reached out to touch the baby’s soft skin. “This child? My hope?”

The innkeeper walked back to her work, her emptiness filled by the healing presence of hope breathing softly in his mother’s arms.

November 21, 2007

Community - Bonnie Way

The midwife only had to ask one question to get the women in the room talking eagerly. Those who had already been pregnant told stories from their previous pregnancies and what they had learned, and even those who were pregnant for the first time like me pitched in with their experiences. I listened as they shared what they were dealing with, what solutions they had found to the problems they encountered, what questions they had. The midwife mostly listened, adding comments when necessary or asking another question to keep the discussion going.

As I walked out of the room, I felt encouraged. Somehow it was good to know that what I was going through wasn’t unique; that other women were also dealing with it and it was just a part of pregnancy. It was also good to hear their “can do” attitude, that pregnancy is normal and natural and something every woman can handle. They were realistic about their discomfort or questions, yet also upbeat and enthusiastic. I could see in their faces as well that this support and encouragement was deeply needed and helpful.

It made me realize how much we need communities in our everyday life. Too often in our modern, busy world, it is easy to get caught up in our day-to-day tasks and to ignore those around us. I go to work, come home to my husband, dash off to dance classes or youth group meetings, come home to start it all again. Until something like a group prenatal appointment reminds me of how important it is to share all of that with others.

As women, writers, Christians, mothers, wives, friends – wherever in life we are – we can benefit from other people who can share our struggles and our joys, tell us that they’ve “been there, done that” and pass on their advice.

November 19, 2007

Better Questions - Janet Sketchley

It’s great to find an excellent book or CD and discover it’s by a Canadian. Inside, I give a little cheer for my fellow citizen and bask in a bit of shared pride. We have some amazing, God-given talent in this country, and too often we don’t hear about it.

I feel the same way when I find a book or CD by a Christian. Little cheer for my fellow believer, and a bit of shared pride: “hey, that’s my brother or sister in the LORD.”
Although I’ve read some great writing by Canadian Christians, and worshiped to some great Canadian music, today I want to tell you about the new CD from my favourite Christian musician, who happens to be American: Todd Agnew.

Better Questions (Ardent Music LLC, 2007)
Artist: Todd Agnew

Todd Agnew is the gifted songwriter who brought us the life-changing “Grace Like Rain” and “My Jesus.” The title of his new CD comes from the first track: “I’ve got better questions than I have answers….”

Better Questions’ music ranges from the rocky, driving “Least of These” and “War Inside” to the pensive “If You Wanted Me” and “Can I Be With You?” to the playful and catchy “Funny.” 

“Martyr’s Song,” co-written with novelist Ted Dekker, gives a poignant view of God’s longing to welcome His children into Heaven.

The songs are Agnew’s own, except for “Our Great God” (a duet with Rebecca St. James), “Can I Be With You?,” and the bonus track “Glorious Day,” which continues his tradition of reprising a public domain hymn in his own unique style.

Todd Agnew sings as everyman/woman, exploring Christians’ struggle to live right and challenging us to see past the labels we put on others into their hearts and needs. His lyrics leave no room for plastic Christianity.

The songs remind me of the group Casting Crowns, who also call Christians to authentic living, although Agnew’s music is heavier. His straightforward lyrics remind me of contemporary Christian music pioneer Keith Green, but they don’t have the harshness I sometimes felt in Keith’s delivery. There’s no judgement here, just an awareness of our common need for grace and a heartfelt “We have His heart, what is keeping us from being His hands?”

Better Questions packs a challenging message, but it’s no sermon set to music. Todd Agnew delivers vibrant music with raw, honest lyrics that could have come from our own souls—or our neighbours’. Like the old man in “A Corner in Memphis,” “he’s telling us our story, or at least his side.” It’s worth a listen.

Grace and peace,
© Janet Sketchley, 2007
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

November 13, 2007

God's Gift of Authority

One day as Jesus was preaching in the temple courts, the priests and the teachers of the law challenged him: “Tell us, by what authority you are doing these things? Who gave you this authority?”
Among this crowd were experienced teachers of the law and elders and leaders of the people. All of a sudden Jesus comes along preaching the good news of eternal life. Do you think that these leaders could have been threatened by his presence? Was Jesus convincing to them? Perhaps in their minds they could not deny God’s power of authority.

According to Matthew 7:28 the crowds were amazed at His teaching and they acknowledged Him. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching because he taught as one who had authority, and not as teachers of the law." What was the difference then? It was this: Jesus responded to the challenge of the priests and teachers by asking if John’s baptism was from heaven or from men. After some discussion, they could not answer. But the answer was clear. The authority came from heaven. Jesus said: “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I too, am working.” I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees his Father doing because whatever the Father does the Son does also. (John 5:17 &18)

As believers, God also gives authority. We probably have the concept of having the authority to drive out Satan or rebuke sin when we have to. That may be so but the authority that God gives is the authority to build up the church. (2 Cor. 10:8) It is for building up not for tearing down. Using God’s gift of authority means availing of God’s power.

Jesus gave the disciples power and authority to cure diseases and drive out demons but also to preach the Kingdom of God. We can build the church fearlessly and with great confidence. We can build up the body of Christ and we can continue to preach Salvation. There is a profound verse that I would like to emphasize: “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”
(2 Cor. 13:8)

Remember the question, Jesus asked? Was John’s baptism from heaven or from man? If it were from man there would be little convincing or conviction. When work is ongoing to benefit the Kingdom of heaven, God will give us the authority to make his truth and purposes known. That’s what makes all the difference in all we do!
Whatever we do, do as though working for the Lord! Go in the strength of the Lord. Amen!

Janice Keats

November 10, 2007

Holy Hush - Glynis

I stood with my family on that warm summer’s afternoon, watching, waiting, my eyes brimming. I looked at Mom. Her soft eyes were closed. The talking had ceased. The sobbing had given way to silence. All eyes were upon Mom as each family member, lost in private thoughts and memories, prepared for Mom’s crossing.

Even my 18-month-old grandson, Trenton, who usually cannot sit still for more than 30 seconds at a time, sat tranquil and silent in my daughter’s arms. The presence of God pervaded the room. The sunshine was glorious and so was the expectant look on Mom’s face as she awaited the hand of Jesus.

“Nanna!” Trenton’s little voice broke the holy hush.

Mom breathed her last. We shed our tears and took turns to kiss our beloved mother, wife, grandmother and great grandmother farewell.

I couldn’t speak. As I stood there trying to be strong for the sake of my family, I thought about my favourite scripture verse – Psalm 46:10a - Be still, and know that I am God.

Being still and knowing that God is in control sometimes makes me uneasy. Stillness is not my nature. I like to fix things and make it all better. But I could not fix my mother anymore.

It was okay this time, though. Mom was finally in the arms of Jesus. Something I had been praying for for years. I pondered how I had been there when she surrendered her life to Christ. A miracle. It soothed the pain of losing my sweet mother and made me homesick for heaven and for that day when I would once more feel her soothing, loving arms envelop me.

What I experienced in that moment when Mom took her last earthly breath was oddly magnificent. It was sacred. It was righteous. It demanded a holy silence.

The Holy Spirit offers comfort and reassurance. Jesus promised that He would not leave us comfortless. He gives us peace and leads us beside quiet waters, thank goodness.

“Let go,now” God whispered as I held my mother’s small hand. “It’s okay now. In this silence, I bore you up but now you need to weep; to mourn; to seek comfort.” Jesus wept. He felt sorrow and found strength. He gave the example and the directive.

In my grief, I realized that the well-timed silence had intensified my communication with God. My tears flowed. Jesus ministered to my heart and soul.

Dear God, the Giver of life. Help me to always remember what it means to be still and know that you are God. And then help me to be still and focus solely on you.

November 09, 2007

The Christmas Story

The children gathered just in front of the first pew as the pastor knelt to speak to them. It was Christmas Eve, time to hear the old, old story once again.

You’d think they would come willingly, eagerly. This is the “magic” of Christmas—the Babe in a manger, a guiding star, gifts from the wise men of the east—fascinating stuff. But some cried, “I don’t want to” and cling to mommy’s skirt.

The older ones shrink back and mutter, “This is embarrassing.”

A three-year-old runs from the back exit, stays for a minute, then dashes out again, exclaiming to his dad on the way by, “I don’t like it, it’s too hard.”

One little girl leads a similar-sized buddy in a game. They seemed to be trying to determine who can crawl the fastest on knees and elbows away from the storyteller.

Another late arrival holds his bottle of milk, not only firm in hand but firm in his mouth.

Eventually they settle. Some put their hands in the air in response to questions. When the microphone comes to their mouth, they shrug, forgetting what they intended to say. In response to, “What would it feel like to be a wise man?” one says, “I’d be scared, because I don’t know if Jesus would like me or not.”

A few speak loud and clear, proclaiming, “This is Jesus’ birthday,” proud of their insight. Several are eager to report whether or not mom and dad have “been good.” A few smile shyly at the attention from the congregation, but no one lingers when dismissed to their seats.

Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” It seems they were once eager to come, but what happened over these 2000 plus years?


The pessimist in me imagines Jesus in the pastor’s shoes. The children become adults and as Jesus speaks, “Come, follow me,” I imagine their responses.

That first child grows up and still clings to his mother’s skirts saying, “Sorry Jesus, I need time to go say goodbye to my mother and father.”

Those who dragged their heels will continue to hold back, and someday hear Jesus say, “He who is ashamed of me and my words, so shall my Father in heaven be ashamed.”

As for the little fellow who thought the story “too hard,” he will be like the rich young ruler who turned away sorrowing because he couldn’t give his all to follow Jesus. Because he had no intention of “counting the cost,” Jesus will tell him, “Anyone who is not willing to forsake all and follow me is not fit to be my disciple.”

These little game players will likewise become fun-loving but religiously reluctant adults. For them, Christianity will be a joking matter, the church a place only for bingo games and box socials. In His day, Jesus used a whip to clear such game-players from His Father’s house of worship. I understand His annoyance.

Then my eyes land on that little one with the bottle. I see him grown up and still carrying a bottle wherever he goes, its shape and contents changed but that bottle remaining his resource of choice. Jesus bids him come and be set free, but I don’t think he will.

The Holy Spirit pokes me. “Suffer the little children . . .” and I agree with Him that I am both negative and pessimistic. “Faith sees them with different eyes,” He tells me. I drop my pessimism and quickly experience the touch of God revising my ‘quick to judge’ attitudes.

Now these children appear different from what I first noticed. The one who loves his mother goes home as an adult to “tell her what great things the Lord has done” because he wants the most important influence in his life to be with Jesus for eternity.

Those who are embarrassed now with being up front are not a problem for God. In my eyes of faith I see them transformed into tireless, behind-the-scenes workers who are willing to stay in the background, not because they are shy but because they humbly recognize that even the most hidden deed done in His name will not go unrewarded.

As for the one who finds the story “too hard” I see God touch those ears and change that child into a counselor, or maybe just the best listening friend that someone ever had, or perhaps He capitalizes on his ‘no time for idle conversation’ attitude and turns him into a great student of the Word, intent on letting it richly dwell in his heart.

Even the game-players seem different. They have grown into men and women with great joy and a gift to cheer and comfort shut-ins. Their playful moods are quick to think of ways that lighten the darkest corners and heaviest loads.

As I watch the children with new eyes, I see that this one with the milk bottle growing faster than them all. The Holy Spirit transfers his dependence on his bottle to a deep dependency on the Lord Jesus Christ and this helpless babe has become a spiritual giant. God uses the milk of His Word and the power of His Spirit to bring him to full maturity.


Someone behind me whispers, “This is the church of tomorrow,” and I smile. Yes it is, and it is up to the church of today to see beyond their childishness to their childlike potential in Christ. It is up to us, up to me, to make sure I say “Yes” when Jesus invites the little children to come!

© Elsie Montgomery, 2007

November 06, 2007

Writer's Block--the Bane of the Author - Donna Fawcett

By Donna Fawcett

For the first time in my life I experienced that dreaded ailment. It is an illness that causes one to break out in a cold sweat. The heart pounds and the brain echoes that sentiment with a dull aching reply. Writer’s block.

Ever writer experiences that freeze in the neuron department. It can last for days—weeks—minutes. And it’s terrifying if you have a deadline to meet. So what is writer’s block and how can we ease past it? By definition, writer’s block (according to the Donna Fawcett abridged dictionary) is the inability to string two thoughts together in a coherent sentence and successfully put it on paper for the purpose of completing an article or book.

I was prepared for this nasty virus—armed with well-documented advice from other writers. The dictionary (no not my imaginary one) is an excellent tool to jump start the brain. Just imagine what can come from flipping open to a page containing the word Nilotic. If this doesn’t work, gather your pen and note pad and head to the local coffee shop. Eavesdrop. In this one instant it is completely polite and necessary. Just don’t make comments on what you are hearing. Read articles by other writers. You may have a different approach to the same thing. Hit the Google button with your subject of choice as a search topic.

For me, the solution came in the form of the problem. Yes, I was experiencing writer’s block when trying to prepare for this blog post. Yes, I tried the coffee break, a scan of other writings—and even a trip to the dentist’s chair for a brutal preparation for a crown replacement. It wasn’t until I returned to my computer, acknowledged the fact that I was experiencing writer’s block and focused on the problem itself that I moved on.

The next time you feel bogged down try some of these suggestions (perhaps with the exception of the dentist’s chair). You never know what neurological bunny trail you will find yourself on.

September 28, 2007

Abandoned Words

While cleaning up my hard drive, I found this reflection on the state of my journals. The entries seemed so random, so scattered, and although I said "will anyone care..." at that time I was wondering if even I did.

Abandoned Words

This journal
tantrums and reverses
there, here
in that book or this
Will anyone
care or puzzle
or merely glance,
then flip it
for more civilized fare?

© 2006, Elsie Montgomery

August 15, 2007

Busy Times

If it weren't for divine intervention I think I'd be pretty buggy by now. While I'm trying to keep up with monthly columns for three different papers, finish the book that a LARGE publishing company is showing interest in, sending off a children's book manuscript and keeping up with the necessary (and beneficial for venting) blogs and websites, I'm also working on the wedding of my middle daughter:)

Her dress is lovely (I made it so I'm a bit partial to it). She and her sisters will be beautiful (what am I saying--they ARE beautiful). The food is ordered, the bouquets made (yes we made them), the boutineers and corsages done (which reminds me--I MUST remember to put pins in them), the programs designed (yes I did that too) and the light strands hung in the backyard (it's at our house). I have a houseful of guests arriving this week (all family) and I think I have pretty much everything ready for the big day.

I am so thankful to God for being enough. Enough strength to finish the tasks, enough sanity to keep me from overloading, enough patience when things didn't go like I'd have liked, enough sleep in the times where I wanted to remain awake and get just one more thing done and enough love through a husband who is so kind and thoughtful when I'm grouchy and petty.

So now, I sit back and wait to see what that day will bring and I'm grateful for the grace I have received in this time. Blessings all and I'll keep you posted.

July 31, 2007

Changing of the Guard - Violet Nesdoly

Lately the old mothers
have been slipping from their places
falling, dying
vacating strategic positions
leaving gaps
in the front line

A new generation
of matriarchs is needed
to organize the family dinners
the baby showers and the anniversaries
to send the birthday cheques

There's a call for fresh recruits
a newly commissioned troop
of kneeling warriors
arms raised in petition and praise
blessing the infants and the in-laws
interceding for the prodigals
alert watch women
guarding the walls of the family

© 2007 - V. Nesdoly

This is for all us daughters who have lately become motherless - especially Glynis, whose mother died a few days ago.

Well girls, we're it now.

July 23, 2007

This is Summer - Bonnie Way

Hot sun in the sky;
Lawn mower purring by;
Pretty-colored butterfly;
This is summer.

Days without a care;
Cool wind teasing my hair;
Flower fragrance in the air;
This is summer.

Gardens growing green;
Heat a shimmering sheen;
Bugs too tiny to be seen;
This is summer.

White clouds floating past;
Much-needed rain at last;
Weathermen miss the forecast;
This is summer.

Popsicles to freeze;
Fat yellow bumblebees;
Apples growing on the trees;
This is summer.

© Bonnie M. Ross

I wrote this poem years ago, when the scent of freshly-mowed lawn stirred my poetic musings. I wanted to capture the feeling of the summers of my childhood, and I still return to these memories.

June 28, 2007

A Taste of the Wild - Donna Fawcett

As published June 25, 2007

He flares his nostrils, tasting the air for all signs of predator. Nothing. And yet there is something. A faint wisp of current that whispers to him. Flee. Run. Chase the wind. Tossing his head, he challenges the silent voice with his own certainty. There is nothing there. The wind picks up in a burst of hot, dry air and swirls the dust through the field before settling once more to stillness. Picking up a striped hoof, he bats at the ground impatiently.

Another toss of black and white mane sends the ear gnats and deer flies dancing into the air only to settle back to their morbid feast upon his hide. He feels little of it. Ears flicker back and forth as though in command of their own fate. All is as it should be. He is still for a moment longer and then a spasm shudders through the great collection of bone, hide and bunched muscle and he bursts forth, lifting legs high, holding his head upright as he continues to sample the close atmosphere with alert senses. With the thunder of each hoof small clouds of dust are churned to life, scattering out behind him. The pull and stretch of muscle pushes him into the bright daylight at a terrific speed and his herd members lift their grazing heads in instantaneous alarm. He flees.

Leader of the herd. Mighty stallion. The call has been sounded and they must follow. The single patter of four hooves becomes the roaring drum of hundreds and the field transforms into a flowing river of browns and blacks and whites and roans. The small puffs of dust become huge columns that obscure the fleeing charge and as the great band of horses crest the distant hill and plunge beyond its horizon silence once more comes to the still afternoon.

June 25, 2007

God Doesn't Go "Poof" - Marcia

The other night I went to see the latest box office rage, Evan Almighty. I enjoyed the first film, Bruce Almighty, produced by Tom Shadyac, so decided to try the second. The comedy had some hilarious moments - like when God suddenly appears in the back seat of the main character’s vehicle and he screams in fear. God says, “Let it out, son, it’s the beginning of all wisdom.” And there were a couple of scenes that brought God’s truth to the wide screen.

Like the scene at a restaurant, when God shows up as the waiter. He chats with the wife of the man who would be Noah, and tells her (I’m relying on my memory here, so the words may not be exact) – “If a person prayed for patience, do you think God would just go “poof” and give her patience? Or do you think God would give her the circumstances in which to develop patience? And say a person had prayed that her family would draw closer together – do you think God would just magically make that happen or would He put that family in circumstances that gave them the opportunity to be closer?” The woman sees the wisdom of his words and goes back to her husband.

I’ve been thinking about the truth in that scene, in light of my own prayer requests lately. For instance, in light of my prayers for my writing, specifically my book – It’s not likely that God will go “poof” and make it an instant overnight success. But He will create the circumstances around that work that will lead me and teach me much. It will be an opportunity to learn and grow both in terms of the world of publishing, and in terms of my relationship with Him. It’s another example of how God is often not so much concerned with the end result as with the process.

And that brings me to the difference in our perspectives and the need for me to adjust
mine. I want to see my book on the best seller’s list. God wants to see it change lives. I want to become known as a writer. God wants me to know Him more.

I’m thankful for the reminder. And I’m thankful that I know God well enough to trust Him with the process. As he said to Evan – and to me through that crazy comedy – “I’m doing it because I love you.”

June 15, 2007

June Fire

Even this far north, the sky is normally dark at 2:30 in the morning. A bit foggy on my way to the washroom, I do notice light at the bedroom window, brighter than normal from the streetlight across the way. Much brighter. On my way back, I look.

Northeast, on a street higher than our home, flames leap skyward, higher than any house. My heart lurches. I call out and wake my husband. I stare at it and move so he can stare. I’m dazed and begin pacing, looking for the phone, dialing 911, finding out someone already called, pacing, looking, finding the binoculars, trying to know which house? Which family? I can’t watch. I can’t not watch.

My husband prays aloud. I join him. I can’t think. Heaviness in the chest, knots in my innards. Someone’s home, maybe their life, out of control. We can see a roof, some joists. Then they are gone. Not a sound. No fire trucks. The flames are a giant torch lighting the sky.

Finally, sirens. During the next three decades of minutes they come, one, then twos. In moments, three fountains arc into the flames. But no change, at least none for another decade.

Finally, steam. A good thing, yet the flames still shoot high.

Then a new blaze to the right. Another house? No, please, no.

More steam. The licking leaping slows, then disappears, at least beneath silhouette of black roof lines that block our full view. Yet it is close enough to fuel in me that familiar panic that fire feeds.

Panic has an acid taste. It smells like cold ashes, dead yet alive, and feels coarse and sandpaper rough in my pacing. The sound is a faint wailing from the back of my heart, plowing through, pulled by wild animals, pushed by screeching demons. It rises, up from my inner parts, screams through my esophagus, but is unable to pass through the narrowing tunnel of my throat. There it rolls into a ball and lumps, blocking my air ways, strangling rational thought, beating on me as if this fire is somehow my fault, and if I cannot be convinced, the fear and the fire, in its rage, determines to destroy something of me anyway.

But it is far enough away; our house is safe. We pray again. I lay down. Faith and sleep eventually decided for me that this fire was not my doing nor will be my undoing. The flames are conquered. The firemen are there. God is everywhere. Panic can only hiss and steam.

Morning brings sunshine, a few showers. We walked 5 minutes went to see the shell, actually just the basement walls are left and some rubble. The heat seared the face off the house next door. The home across the back had vinyl siding, as in past tense.

The house above the shell had been enormous, more like a hotel, three stories on a hill, under construction for the past five years, an annoyance to those who observed it every day. As we watched the firemen still there, and the smouldering lumps, another neighbor laughed and showed us pictures he took in the night.

“Best thing that could have happened. I think we will throw a block party.”

Eyebrows raised, we went home, glad no one was home and lost in that shell, and no one was home next door.

I walked farther. The house with the rippled vinyl had a car in the driveway. I wonder now, if not before, do they believe in answered prayer?

June 11, 2007

Everyday Dirt

From everyday dirt

from the ground beneath his feet, Lord,
the everyday path that he treads,
the wounded clay of my trampled soul,

Scoop my fingers,
broken, bruised,
but twitching still,
as dreams do

Gather fragments of faith,
reaching, weeping,
from filth

out of dust
Sift prayers choked
yet wheezing

Cradle this sigh of stone,
his everyday dirt,
my everyday pain,
in the warmth of your Hands

Spit on it.

Stir the virus of my loss,
into the lick of your life

Culture it in your palm
until it becomes the antidote for despair,
the sweet salve of healing,
the linament for blindness

Dab it on his eyes

Smear his death with Spirit-spore
Smudge my night with mercy-mire and
Make Light.

Pam Mytroen

Hi folks. The prayer above is inspired by Jesus making mud with his spit (oh my!) and giving sight to the blind man. He delights in taking the everyday dirt and pain beneath our feet and making miracles. The miracle I await, (some days not very patiently!) is for God's sight and enlightenment for my autistic son. Pam

Hi again! I thought I should clarify that my son is high functioning autistic. He's not the sterotypical autistic that you may associate with Dustin Hoffman in "Rainman". Trevor is 13 and his problems lie in the social/communicative areas. If you would like to know more, please see my blog for an upcoming post that will have more details. Thanks!

May 22, 2007

The Glory of Sunshine

Published in 2006 on I couldn't resist sharing it because it says it all.


What a glorious day to share! Our skies are open with the cerulean clarity that comes after a frosty night. This corner of the earth has begun to nestle itself closer to the sun, awakening to the warmth of that generous satellite. I turn my face to its sympathetic brightness and drink in the elements that our dark and cold winter has denied me.

Ah spring! It is a temperamental lover. One moment it turns its back on us with a raging tempest, throwing its tears and blasts in dark, thunderous bursts. And then it distances itself with an icy aloofness, chilling our little nook with its cold and bitter indifference. But then it turns to us, wraps us in its alluring and heady hold and offers its bright and fragrant splendor as a placating gesture. And all we can do is bask in its beauty, awestruck that it is merely a shadow--a feeble image--of our Master's magnificence. A mere product of the Creator's hand.

And so I embrace Spring's fragrances--the lilac scented air swirling about me intermingled with lily of the valley and allium, their sweet and spicey pollens clinging to my sleeves as I caress the garden's bountiful blossoms. Honey bees share their chorus today, pleased that Spring has forgiven us and chosen to bestow her favours on all and sundry. The humming birds have made their entrance, darting to and fro in an eratic ballet, their wings adding a base note to the fervant music around me. I can feel the energy of the day and am grateful to be alive and part of this incredible moment.

May 17, 2007

The Deep Wide Valley - Walk With Me

How do you know the extent of my deep trials? I was suddenly thrust into the slidden condition of despair. The valley grew wider; my feet grew weary. It was a long and treacherous path. I couldn't see an end in sight, so I wandered on aimlessly, hoping to find answers, a way out, a light in view, anything.......

Who was there to talk with? Who was willing to listen to my meaningless woes? Where are all the others who say they know what it's like to encounter despair? We each go through the valley alone, I guess. Yeah, they're out there, but in a different valley. They wouldn't be found walking in my valley. There must be so many valley's. How vast is our land!

Wait a minute, I've been here before. It wasn't the same trudge, but I remember this terrain. Time seems so long down here. There must be a fresher clearer air beyound the cloud of doubt and despair. Of course it is, I remember the climb back up the last valley that I had broken through. I broke through those clouds. It was as if I broke through a thick film of darkness and when I did, the darkness was over. All was bright and glorious. It was almost as if it never happened at all.
In fact, I hardly remember why I walked there before.

Still, here I a new time frame, a new valley. I will climb my way back out. I will burst forth and discover a new meaning and joy of life again!

Copyright Janice Keats

April 15, 2007

A Grand Spectacle - Marcia

At a certain time of day, early in the evening, I make sure the curtains on the windows in our living room are open. I don’t want to miss the spectacle. Yes, right here in Ponoka, there’s a grand spectacle every evening. It’s a spectacle of promise.

We are fortunate enough to live on a street that is one-sided. There are houses on the east side, but not on the west. That side is still an undeveloped bush, full of birds, squirrels and deer. It’s there that the spectacle of promise happens. As the sun begins to drop, the light slants, hitting thousands of small catkins hanging from the trees. When the sun hits them, they glow, making the entire bush light up. It’s the promise of spring; the promise of new growth; the promise of the colour green.

As I have watched the glow become more and more intense day by day, I have been reminded of all the promises God has given us. They, too, are promises of new growth, rebirth and second chances. They are filled with words of love and protection, encouragement and comfort. They confirm the power of all believers to accomplish God’s purposes. They speak about God’s faithfulness, mercy and forgiveness and His desire for a continuing relationship with us. They outline the path to peace and everlasting life.

None of God’s promises are hidden. He has made a spectacle of them, displaying them for all to see. They glow like the catkins on the trees across from my house. They are promises that will never be broken.

The Apostle Paul knew this when he addressed the people of Corinth – “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2Corinthians 1:20

There is no duplicity in God. Just as we know those catkins will develop and bloom into bright green leaves, we can know that God is saying “yes,” to us. “Yes, I am here. Yes, I love you more than you can comprehend. Yes, I want you to get to know me. And yes, soon, very soon, we will be together.”

One promise that sums up all the others can be found in Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” All the promises, all the trials, all the events of our lives, are meant to culminate in what is good. For the believer, there is no doubt it will happen.

As spring creeps to its fulfillment, as we watch the earth bursting into new life around us. we can be confident that the same kind of life is growing in us. The same kind of renewal is possible. God is saying “Yes!”

May we all shout “Amen!”

April 14, 2007

Note from a relentless editor. . .

Just a reminder -- this blog is for posting your writing. While news, victories, prayer requests, and so on are deeply important, we have our Yahoo listserv, your personal blogs, and the InScribe website to post other information about our writing world.

So dig out a manuscript, or write something new, and share it here for us to read!

your picky blog-master, lc.

March 20, 2007

Spring Isn't -- because it Is that time of year again

Spring isn't pallid snowdrops
shyly coil'd in chilly Feb.
It isn't jewel primulas
or burgeoning rhodo's red.

Not hyacinths poking through dirt
or blossom bursts of plum,
not heather clumps abuzz once more
with bees that float and hum.

Not tulips or camellias
unfurling on the scene,
nor lilacs or forsythia
soon giving way to green.

But in the vernal equinox
'midst sprouting oats and flaxes
it's bureaucrats whose grasping hands
insist I spring for taxes.

--V.Nesdoly 2004

This poem won a 'Short and Silly' contest in FellowScript some years ago.

And yes, ladies and gents, it is that time of year again. So -- Gather your forms, receipts, T4s, pencils, erasers, calculator -- Get set! -- Go!!

March 14, 2007

What I See in Books by Marcia Lee Laycock

Every time I step into my office these days I am given cause to pause. We will be moving in about four months and the idea of having to sort and pack my books is more than a little daunting. My daughter says we should just put a sign on the lawn, ‘House for Sale, Includes Library.’ The cheek of some people’s children!

I’ve been reading a wonderful children’s book called The Book Thief. The main character is a young girl who steals her first book at her brother’s graveside. Books become extremely important to her, as she lives in the midst of the madness of Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Books mean a lot to me, too. I’ve never stolen one, but I confess when I was young I used to take them out of the library just to touch them, hold them, put them on a shelf and look at them. To me, they were, and are, icons of comfort and security. Lately I’ve been examining why. I suppose a good therapist could write a book about it. (I’d be willing to be the subject as long as I get a copy I can touch, hold and put on my shelf!)

Perhaps the attachment has to do with power. There is power in knowledge, they say, and the best way to gain knowledge is to read. Perhaps it has to do with ownership. Some people have to own a new car every year. Books are cheaper. Or perhaps it’s security. A room full of books gives me the same feeling a pile of firewood did in the Yukon when it turned sixty below. The fear of being out in the cold is kept at bay for a while.

Or perhaps, and I do hope this is a primary motivation, it is because books somehow give me a window into the mind and heart of God. Not all books do this, of course, but even the bad ones have their moments. Each being written by a man or woman whose essence is eternally connected to his/her creator, God is there. Sometimes His face shines from the pages. Sometimes it’s a shadow that lurks. Sometimes it’s a thread that ties the thing together or the glue that drips from the binding. You might not even be aware of it. The author might not even have been aware, but He’s there and opening those pages reveals Him to us all.

I was telling my husband a bit about The Book Thief as we drove to a nearby city the other day. He asked me if it was a Christian book. “No,” I said. “Not at all.”

But I see God in it. That’s why I want to touch it, hold it, read it intently and keep it on my shelf.

March 13, 2007

Have You Been To Calvary?

Have you taken that uphill journey

With Jesus to a hill called Mount Calvary?

Did you help to carry the cross?

Or even wipe the sweat from His brow?

When you arrived did you comfort Him?

Did you tell Him how much you loved Him?

Were you willing to wash His hands and feet?

Or even willing to take His place on the cross?

When darkness overcame the world

Were you willing to bear a load of sin?

Did you acknowledge Him as your Savior?

Or even ask Him to remember your family?

Did you carry Him to the tomb?

Did you believe that He would rise again?

Are you going to carry His cross from here?

Or even shine His light for the world to see?

Did you tell Jesus that you would wait for His return?

Are you prepared to meet Him in the air?

Did you tell Him before He hung His head?

Was your walk back down peaceful or still troubled?

Copyright 2007 Janice Keats

March 07, 2007

A True Friend - Donna Dawson

I have been posting this story in portions on my blog sites and thought all of you might enjoy it too.

A True Friend

He was a ragged piece of humanity. Dirt smudged across his face somewhat muting the yellowing of the tobacco stains that streaked the bedraggled beard. His grizzled hair was long and dull and had lost its fine, tidy edge many years ago. It hung in chunks, like the mane of a wild pony. The rheumy blue eyes that nestled deep into the cragged and folded skin of his face carried heartache to deep and eternal that the boy thought it could never be erased. But he was determined to try. With a final nod of his own unruly red mop, the young lad settled, in his mind, the thought that--yes, this was the one--and he squared his shoulders as he approached.

How long the man had sat in his dusty heap upon the unforgiving sidewalk, the boy didn't know. Nor did it matter at the moment. What mattered was that the boy must reach out to him. The Pastor had told him--them--that Christ's mandate was to go out into the world and preach the gospel. And his mother had taken it a step further and showed him in his new teen Bible where Christ had befriended people before he ever tried to share his kingdom with them. She was right. He knew that even at his half-score and two years. He had seen it in his sister when she had wanted something from him. Kindness always worked best.

The boy settled his limber and gangly, fleece and nylon-wrapped frame onto the icy surface beside the old man and tried hard not to react to the pungent waft of body odour that assaulted his nose. The crisp, bright blue of his jacket sharply contrasted with the faded and worn denim that covered, in a thin shroud, the scrawny arm next to his. An occasional shiver wracked the tired old body and the boy nestled closer in an attempt to warm the old man....

to be continued...

© Donna Dawson 2006
Author of Redeemed and The Adam & Eve Project 

March 01, 2007

Safe and Secure - Donna Dawson

by Donna Dawson
copyright February 2007

The storm rages outside our cozy brick home. Wind howls around the chimney, it's banshee voice screaming in a high pitched fury. Snow swirls and dances, hypnotic to the unwary, eager to lure away from the hearth into the cold clutches of the winter blast. But I sit here before my fire, watching the flames dance to the wind's tune, smiling as the bright sparks taunt the wind's bitter breath with cheery warmth. And I feel safe and secure.

Life is like that. Changeable. Unpredictable. Alluring yet dangerous. And those of us who are unaware can sometimes find ourselves out in the midst of a violent temptest uncertain of where to turn next. Hands outstretched we grope blindly against the wind and the snow and the bitter cold.

But Christ stands like a sturdy brick shelter amidst the storm and he covers us and warms us. Oh the winds still rage about us. The haunting laughter of temptation still mocks us. The bitter cold of rejection still strives to nip at our faces with its icy sting. But our Saviour is there. He is our roof and walls, our chimney, our roaring fire and we can sit and listen to the storm knowing that we are safe and secure.

February 26, 2007

Breath of God

" We woke up Sunday morning to this silent Signature in our front yard, the 'breath of God'

"By the breath of God frost is given"
(Job 37:10)

"The breath of God all-powerful gave me life" (Job 33:4)

"I will put breath in you and you will come to life" (Ezekiel 37:5)

"This is the air I breathe, your holy presence, living in me"
(chorus by Amy Lee)

"Oh breathe on me, breath of God, Fill me with Life anew"
(Hymn -Robert Jackson)

Pam Mytroen

February 17, 2007

A Field Guide to the 'Service' Species

(With references for further study)

SERVICE: servitus

Found in every habitat from mountaintop to sea level, rain forest to desert, country to city and palace to prison. Most have plain, unremarkable plumage, although there are a few showy varieties. Regarding song - some weep others sing, one is known for its strident call but most are silent, secretive fowl.

Field marks: Most prominent features are its practical eye and generous spirit.
Voice: Often silent, though some sing a song of comfort to the weary.
Where found: Widespread. Seen often in city slums, prisons, orphanages, hospitals, roadsides.
(Master Field Guide: Isaiah 50:4 Matthew 25:36,37; Luke 10:34)

Field marks:
Note the efficient hands and thrifty outlook.
Voice: Warbles kindness and faithfulness. Is also known for its chirps of wisdom.
Where found: Breeds anywhere there is need of food, clothing and shelter. Found widely in kitchens and sewing rooms.
(Master Field Guide: Acts 9:36-39; Proverbs 31:10-31)

Field marks: Eye-catching, bright plumage.
Voice: A strident, trumpet-like call.
Where found: Found most commonly in public. Often sighted on streets, in churches and other places where it will be noticed.
(Master Field Guide: Matthew 6:1,2)

Field marks: Always lured by fine clothes, money, the aura of success and influence.
Voice: Only sings in the presence of the rich, famous and powerful – a series of fawning whistles.
Where found: Widespread - especially common in the marketplace, although this variety has also been sighted in church.
(Master Field Guide: James 2:1-9)

Field marks: Easily identified by its outer feathers of partial obedience, its defensive posture and ability to rationalize.
Voice: Sweet notes, followed by a sharp hissing when its ruse is uncovered. It has also been heard to cry plaintively.
Where found: Breeds in a climate of self-will and rebellion.
(Master Field Guide: 1 Samuel 15)

Field marks:
Note the watchful stance and habits of whole-heartedness, reliability and perseverance.
Voice: Silent.
Where found: Observed widely in the marketplace, in churches and homes. It is known not to migrate; individuals stick with duties and commitments.
(Master Field Guide: Mark 13:33-37; Ephesians 6:7; Philippians 2:12,13)

Field marks: Often seen laden with Kingdom seed, planting, watering and harvesting.
Voice: a cry of compassion which, as the season progresses, changes to joyful song.
Where found: Always near soil.
(Master Field Guide: Psalm 126:4,5; John 4:34-37; I Corinthians 3:5-9)

Field marks: Frequently sighted with water - either dispensing it as a cold drink or using it to wash feet.
Voice: Silent
Where found: Breeds and thrives in the presence of the simplest and most basic needs.
(Master Field Guide: Matthew 10:42; John 13:3-17)

Field marks: Most often observed setting a good example, rich in love and good deeds. A common sight with this variety is the imitation it inspires in others.
Voice: Sings an encouraging call with God-honoring praise notes.
Where found: On hilltops and lampstands as well as in flocks where a willing spirit is evident.
(Master Field Guide: Matthew 6:13-16; Titus 2:7,8; Hebrews 10:24,25)

Field marks:
Only one sighting ever reported. Identified by its unusual humility and obedience. Resulted in the shedding of blood and death on a cross.
Voice: An agonizing cry: “It is finished!”
Where found: Breeds in repentant hearts. Effects of this service found in all redeemed mankind to this day. Also known to presently inhabit the Highest Place.
(Master Field Guide: Matthew 20:28; Philippians 2:5-11)

Field marks: Often characterized by miracles, power over dark spirits, supernatural communication and protection.
Voice: Strong clear call, proclaiming the Gospel.
Where found: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth.
(Master Field Guide: Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8)

Field marks:
Note the crown of unfading glory. This variety has also been observed to cast this crown before the Almighty.
Voice: A repetitive, awe-inspiring cry: “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
Where found: In heaven, before the throne of God.
(Master Field Guide: Matthew 6:4; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 14)

Copyright © Violet Nesdoly - 2003

I wrote this parody in response to a FaithWriters writing prompt some years ago. I believe it was published in their first book of collected writings by members. I have flogged it in a few more places but with no success. It's probably too weird for most. It was fun to write though.

February 08, 2007

Loneliness - Bonnie Way

He sits
Upon the railing
Rowling at my window.
His voice
Is melancholy
As though he
Were the last cat
In the world.

I watch
From my window
The night air is cool.
His eyes
Are green as he
Looks up at me.
Green is not envy;
It is lonely.

He leaves
His railing perch,
Rubs once against the post.
His tail,
Three inches long,
Is a bottlebrush,
Held up straight,
As he trots away.

I sit
On my windowsill.
I have no sound for loneliness.
His ears
Have left me
And no one else
Hears or understands
The silent cry.

This poem received Honourable Mention in the 2001 ICWF Fall Contest.

February 07, 2007

Reminders of His Love -- Janet Sketchley

I write fiction because I love stories. Articles come as I try to capture and explore what God teaches me, and I share them in hopes He may use them to touch others. I keep them on file so I can re-learn my lessons, and here's one that first appeared in Our Family in 2000. The incident happened almost 17 years ago, and I needed to read about it again.

Reminders of His Love

© Joanna Mallory

When our first baby was born, my husband and I agreed that I would trade my 8‑to‑4 workplace for the privilege of being an at-home Mom. Suddenly we were living on almost 50 per cent less income. We'd never had to stick to a tight budget for any length of time, and the pressure left me struggling with self-pity.

We gave up dining in fancy restaurants, and tried not to use our credit cards. The hardest part for me was having no spending money for little impulse items. When the last few fish in my aquarium died just after an unexpected repair bill, I was overwhelmed. My urgent prayers that God would meet our financial needs seemed useless. Things were getting worse instead of better. Now here I was, not even able to afford the few dollars to buy some new fish.

The ringing of the phone intruded on my misery. Blotting tears of discouragement away with a tissue, I managed a shaky "Hello." My former boss was on the line. Did I have room in my aquarium for some extra fish? The latest addition to his tank was too aggressive for his smaller ones. I thanked him excitedly, then hung up and praised the One who showed His care when I was at the breaking point.

It's still hard living on one income, and from time to time we find ourselves in the same agony of finances. Looking back, I can see that God has provided for our needs at every step. And sometimes, when I'm at my most fragile, He has generously given special treats like those fish. Things I didn't need, but reminders of His love, to strengthen my faith and help me trust Him.

© Janet Sketchley, 2007
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.